By Marcus Christenson
A discussion on where you might find the most attractive and attack-minded football in Europe at the moment would certainly include the usual suspects of Real Madrid CF and Manchester United FC as well as teams like FC Porto, AS Monaco FC, RC Deportivo La Coruña and Juventus FC.
Devotees of the German Bundesliga, however, would not hesitate to mention SV Werder Bremen, who are currently third in the league and cannot stop scoring. On Saturday, they beat Hannover 96 5-1 to add to a 5-3 scalp of VfL Wolfsburg. They have scored four goals apiece against FC Schalke 04, SC Freiburg and 1. FC Köln, and have also put three past Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha BSC Berlin.
Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf is the man behind this free-scoring unit who, before this weekend, were averaging 2.6 goals per game, but whereas the media and fans prefer to talk about all the goals and the strikers, the coach believes the key to the team's success lies with the defence.
Schaaf told uefa.com: "We have scored a lot of goals but I think our defence has been the key to that. We are better organised and that gives the attackers a solid base to play from. We haven't really changed anything this season, but we have continued our philosophy and become more consistent in our play.
"The players who came in over the summer have also settled quickly and that is important," added the 42-year-old, who made 262 appearances for Bremen between 1979 and 1994. "Overall, however,
I think that it is wrong to single anyone out. Our strength lies in the group."
While applauding the collective, there is no denying that portly Brazilian forward Ailton has played a large part in the team's success. The 30-year-old has scored ten goals in 12 matches and heads the German goalscoring charts while Johan Micoud and Ivan Klasnic have chipped in with six apiece. Fabian Ernst, meanwhile, deserves a mention as he has provided eight assists so far.
But can the side really compete with teams such as FC Bayern München and BV Borussia Dortmund who have much larger squads? Schaaf certainly thinks so. "It is very early to start talking about winning titles but I think we have played well against the top teams and shown that we have the same quality as they do," he said.
I think we have the potential to go very far this year," added Schaaf. "A lot will depend on how we perform just before and after the winter break as we have struggled then before. If we come out of that and are still in a good position then I think we can go all the way and challenge the other teams."
But while Bremen have a lot to look forward to in the Bundesliga, their European adventure ended in despair and defeat by SV Pasching in the UEFA Intertoto semi-finals. "We weren't at our best against Pasching and that is something we will regret as we wanted to do well," said Schaaf. "But now we have to focus on the Bundesliga."
A top-three finish and participation in the UEFA Champions League is crucial according to Schaaf. "We will unfortunately lose two important players for next season, Ailton and Mladen Krstajic, and I think a lot will depend on how we do this season," he said. "If we are at the top end of the league and qualify for Europe then it will be easier to build a competitive squad."
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